My Advice for Students at Yonsei University, Seoul, South Korea

Authored by:
Kasey C.

Kasey C.

With midterms coming up next week, I wanted to take some time to share my advice for any prospective students looking to study abroad in South Korea. Below is a list of 6 things I wish someone had shared with me before I came abroad. I hope this helps!

1. CIEE is worth it. I had looked at other programs, like direct exchange with a university, but I am so glad that I picked CIEE to study abroad at Yonsei University. I really appreciate all the programs and activities that CIEE offers. There are many activities that I would like to do, but often I get too nervous to go out on my own, especially with my limited language ability. However, this is not a problem when participating in small group CIEE events and Yecco events. There are events offered every week, sometimes even three or four a week. The events are first come first serve, but I have never had any issues getting a spot as long as I sign up on time. The seonsaengnims (teachers) even plan activities based on what students want to do. The seonsaengnim are very friendly and helpful. Don’t be afraid to reach out to them for help!

2. You don’t need to be an expert to have fun! You don’t need to speak the language or know much about Korea to live here. I was very worried about studying abroad when I had only taken a year of Korean language in college. However, much of the daily interactions are very foreigner friendly with English options. Many students studying abroad have little language skills (sometimes none at all) and they are all having a great time. Of course, having a greater fluency allows you more opportunities to participate in the local culture. But there is still a ton to do even with no language knowledge.

3. Take classes that interest you. Whatever classes you take, try to take classes that interest you. There is so much to do while studying abroad, and finding time to study with a busy schedule will be difficult. If you are taking classes that are enjoyable or interesting, it makes it a lot easier to sit down and do your assignments. I personally love the CIEE intercultural communication and leadership course, and would highly recommend it to everyone! It does a great job of allowing students to reflect on their experiences abroad while engaging with the local culture through excursions and culture partner activities. The class structure is similar to many small college classes with lots of casual discussions and small reflection assignments, compared to Yonsei classes that are mostly lecture based with one or two final exams.

4. Carefully consider whether you want a roommate or not. The one thing I wish CIEE improved on is how they pair roommates together. I was expecting some sort of detailed questionnaire to pair people up, or at least try to find compatible partners. They only asked two questions about sleep schedule and cleanliness. However, me and my roommate are total opposites, so I don’t know how much they use the questions. I think having a roommate is great, especially in the first week or so, because they are someone who you can figure things out with. It can feel very lonely to be in a foreign country by yourself, so the companionship with someone who speaks English is very comforting. However, many people have had a lot of issues with incompatible roommates due to differing hygiene, cleanliness, and sleep schedules. So definitely consider if you are the type of person who is flexible and willing to have some tough conversations on boundary setting with your roommate. If you are worried about being isolated if you get a single, don’t worry, most people make friends through the group chat and as they participated in activities.

5. Don’t overpack. I always overpack because being overprepared relieves my anxiety. However, you can get everything in Korea, and I mean everything. There are also a ton of stores close to the school that sell anything from clothes, shoes, and bedding, to contacts, glasses, and . Daiso is a very popular store to get your necessities cheaply. It is a Japanese dollar store, selling items from 500 w 5,000 w (less than $3.50). They have school supplies, room organizers, hangers, detergent, toiletries, crafts, room deco’r, and more. Artbox is another great store for all sorts of school supplies, electronics, and stationary. Both are a two minute walk from the main gate of campus. Convenience stores are truly convenient, with locations on every block, selling great quality foods and snacks, drinks, and daily necessities. Oliveyoung carries to get cosmetics and personal hygiene products, including a large variety of American brands. Tampons can be a little harder to find, but I have seen them in some stores. And if you can’t find something in stores, you can order things online to be shipped to your dorm. Just remember, the less you bring with you, the more room you have to bring souvenirs home.

6. And most importantly, you can do it! It might seem scary or impossible, but you can study abroad. There are going to be good days and bad days, but the experience is worth it I was worried about leaving my family (with my aging grandfather, my sick brother, and my mother starting cancer treatment) to go abroad. My family is doing fine without me, and I am still able to stay in touch with them regularly. The choice will be different for everyone, but I can say from personal experience that I made the right choice by coming abroad. Think about what you want for yourself and your future, and take the leap to go abroad. If I can do it, you can do it too.


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